Scientists say a new hydrogen technology could lead to a “green and sustainable energy era.”
Scientists in China are one step closer to making on-demand hydrogen fuel production a feasible reality. Researchers with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University have discovered a separation technique that has the potential to be used for on-demand hydrogen generation in real time.
The new technology could be used to power portable devices, vehicles and aircrafts.
The researcher’s findings, which were published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, reveal that they have developed an H2 separation process that is structured around the chemical element bismuth.
The scientists used an alloy composed of gallium, tin, indium and bismuth metals to make hydrogen, the alloy is pressed to an aluminum plate immersed in water. The resulting hydrogen is funneled directly to a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). This fuel cell converts the chemical energy into electrical energy, resulting in on-demand hydrogen fuel production.
According to the researchers’ paper, hydrogen fuel cells that convert chemical energy to electrical energy could be used to power vehicles, aircrafts and portable devices.
Bismuth was key to the scientists’ success with the on-demand hydrogen fuel production technology.
The reason that scientists were able to improve on previous on-board hydrogen production methods was the addition of the bismuth to the alloy. By adding bismuth into the mix, the reaction that produces hydrogen has greater stability and durability.
According to author and professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Jing Liu, the technique generated a higher conversion efficiency compared to traditional power generation methods.
Liu explained that there are a number of problems in existing methods for post-reaction mixture separation. “The merit of this method,” Liu says, “is that it could realize real-time and on-demand hydrogen production. It may offer a possibility for a green and sustainable energy era.”
The researchers hope that they will be able to find a way to recycle the bismuth as this will make their new technology even more cost-effective and eco-friendly.
Additionally, the researchers acknowledged in their paper that before their on-demand hydrogen fuel production prototype can be commercialized, it will need to be optimized in other ways, such as finding a way to better dissipate the heat that is generated from the hydrogen reaction process.